Trying to apply sunscreen to three wriggling, twisting, complaining children is an act of diligent parenting. Couple that with finding a sunscreen that doesn’t contain harmful ingredients and is effective at protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful rays and you have entered into super-extreme eco-parenting territory.
Since I am in the trenches daily, struggling over sun protection with my three kids, I’ll fill you in on what I know.
What Sunscreen should I buy?
For the past few years, I have turned to the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen recommendations to find safe sunscreen for my kids. Some of their top picks that I use are California baby Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+(2.9oz -$19.99) and Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive, SPF 30+ (3oz -$11.99). I like these but they all contain minerals zinc or titanium, which leaves a ghostly white glow and takes awhile to rub into my kid’s skin.
When I can’t bear that white pasty film and the extra work that it takes to apply, I use La Roche-Posay Anthelios Water Resistant Sunscreen Cream, SPF 15 (3.4oz – 27.49 on amazon). This product has excellent sun protection and can be found at local Duane Reades. The one problem that I found is it doesn’t stay on too well in the water so you have to be diligent about reapplying. Other products like Coppertone Oil-Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 15 are easy to apply but the trade-off of the non-mineral products is that they can contain chemicals considered to be potential hormone disruptors, or contain only moderate levels of UVA protection.
In a nutshell, when you are choosing, avoid Oxybenzone and Retinyl Palmitate and added insect repellent, sprays, powders and any product that has an SPF above 50+ - it just has too many chemicals for your kids. I try to find products that meet the EWG standards and meet the all-important convenience factor – easy to find in a local drugstore.
Getting the Lotion on your Wiggly Kids:
Many times I’m rushing, trying to get lotion onto the three kids before they race outside. Even though the EWG claims that sprays and powders “cloud the air with tiny particles of sunscreen that may not be safe to breathe” in our family, it is spray time for us or no sunscreen at all, and no sunscreen is not an option. What I try to do is spray into my hand away from everyone’s faces and then apply to the kids’ bodies. One spray that I use is the KINeSYS Kids Spray on Sunscreen, Fragrance-free with Parsol 1789, SPF 30+.
Another good solution for fast application of sunscreen are the face sticks. I like the Badger Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30. Slip this into your child’s bag for easy re-application and you can teach your little one to apply on themselves – which can only make life easier for us eco-parents.
The Great Cover-up
All good sunscreens contain some chemicals so the best option for little bodies is to use as little as possible. With that in mind, I have started getting my kids to wear rash guard shirts that cover up their arms and chests. It reduces the amount of skin that has to be slathered with lotions. One complaint that I get from my kids with the rash guard shirts is that they get cold. The looser the shirts are, the colder my kids get. I try to buy shirts that are form fitting. Pack two shirts for the day. They dry quickly so they can keep changing into a dry one.
Lastly, the best advice above all else, is to stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day - 10am – 2pm, wear a hat, and find shade whenever you can.
If you have some good tips on protecting your family from the sun or more recommendations for sunscreens please tell us about it.
Francesca Olivieri is co-founder of sage baby, an online eco-friendly baby store offering everything from organic clothes and skin care to furniture. She also runs a green consulting business; blogs for The Family Groove and Scenic Hudson; and contributes to Daily Candy Kids, YogaCity, Citiscoop, and NRDC’s Simple Steps. Please visit her website at FrancescaOlivieri.com.